Today is Veteran's Day -- a day that often slips by unnoticed due to a lack of fireworks displays and absence of a long holiday weekend with barbecue and football. I believe it is important to reflect on the importance of this day. So, indulge me in a look back at the history...
World War 1’s bloody campaign officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28th, 1919. The actual fighting, however, had stopped seven months earlier with a temporary ceasefire instituted on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. November 11th, 1918 is considered the actual end date of “The War to End all Wars.”
In November of the following year, President Wilson spoke the following words to a nation still reeling from the shock and devastation of such a brutal and protracted fight: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”
On Armistice Day in 1923, the ailing former president Wilson spoke again. He said, "The stimulating memories of that happy time of triumph are forever marred and embittered for us by the shameful fact that when the victory was won, be it remembered–chiefly by the indomitable spirit and ungrudging sacrifices of our incomparable soldiers–we turned our backs on upon our associates and refused to bear any responsible part in the administration of peace, or the firm and permanent establishment of the results of the war–won at so terrible a cost of life and treasure–and withdrew into a sullen and selfish isolation which is deeply ignoble because manifestly cowardly and dishonorable." Wilson continued, "There is at least one great and powerful nation which can turn away from programs of self interest and devote itself to practicing and establishing the highest ideals of disinterested service and the consistent maintenance of exalted standards of conscience and of right. The only way in which we can worthily give proof of our appreciation of the high significance of Armistice Day is by resolving to put self-interest away and once more formulate and act on the highest ideals and purposes of international policy. Thus, and only thus, can we return to the true traditions of America."
The next day, a cheering crowd of over 20,000 gathered outside Wilson's home to pay homage to the idealist, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and architect of the League of Nations.
In 1938, Congress approved an Act to make November 11th, Armistice Day, a legal holiday dedicated to the idea of world peace and the diplomatic resolution of conflict. In 1954, after World War II had organized, trained and deployed the greatest number of armed forces in our country’s history and also after the United States had fought in the Korean conflict, Congress amended the 1938 Act by renaming it Veteran’s Day. Thus, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
I join the rest of the country in and remembering the sacrifices of America’s 25 million veterans, and urging all to support the men and women who fight our wars.
May we move forward into a more peaceful future.